6 • Chapter 1
• Finally, as a result of this rapidly changing climate, the education com-
munity has begun to turn away from the practice of educating children
with special needs in separate programs. We have begun to recognize that
strengths and challenges for all children exist on a more continuous spec-
trum than we once believed. The worlds of general education and special
education have begun to move toward each other.
Even the federal government acknowledged this change in its Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation of the 1990s. A new model
of education has grown from the idea that a far greater number of, if not all,
children, regardless of strengths and challenges, will benefit from being edu-
cated together in the same program. Since this approach is based on making a
successful community for everyone, it has been called inclusion.
A Brief History of Inclusion
As late as the mid-1970s, there were no federal laws or guidelines for pro-
viding children with disabilities access to free public education. One out of
five disabled children received no public education (U.S. Office of Special
Education Programs 2000). In 1975, Congress enacted the Education for All
Handicapped Children Act (EHA) as a standard, rather than a law. The EHA
was the first step in guaranteeing educational access for all, but it focused on
separate special education services for children with disabilities.
The 1990s saw a large-scale rethinking of the need for access and equal-
ity for the disabled. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), along with
key legal challenges by individuals, prompted congress to rewrite the EHA as
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. It was signifi-
cantly revised as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
(IDEIA) in 2004.
Perhaps the most significant change from EHA to IDEA was the principle
of the least restrictive environment. The act states,
To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, includ-
ing children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are
educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, sepa-
rate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the
regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or sever-
ity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes
with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved
satisfactorily (U.S. Congress 2004, 118 Stat. 2677).
IDEA also created provisions for children between birth and three
years with diagnosed disabilities to receive early intervention through their
local school districts and mandated that children with disabilities receive
either an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) during these years or an
Individualized Education Program (IEP) during school-age years.
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